Not since Kanye and Drake played the Colosseum together six months ago has there been a diametrically opposite gathering of forces on stage in L.A., or maybe anywhere. We’re talking, of course, about the UCLA and USC marching band’s joint performance (listed here in alphabetical order – no favouritism) that culminated in the official opening of the summer season at the Hollywood Bowl Friday night.
It takes a lot to overwhelm Gwen Stefani, Los Angeles Phil, Gwen Stefani with The L.A. Phil, a pair of world-class ballet dancers, and Branford Marsalis perform the film music for John Williams, and Williams made a surprise appearance to present his first world piece. But the combined army of USC and UCLA almost managed to do just that with what was billed as a historic first-ever collaboration, performed serving Stephanie’s “hullback girl” for nearly 10 minutes as fireworks went off over the seashells.
This “tusk squared” peak was the cherry on top of an evening dedicated to the Bowl’s centenary. (It’s actually 101st today, but 2021 was still a bit too far-fetched to have a proper party.) It was indeed a night fitting for a hundred years, with the bleak sea of June laying a lie on the promise of the eternal place of the nights. “Under the Stars” but there’s more than enough star power on stage in a well-thought-out lineup, all for every Bowl-er.
The proceedings began with a “Centennial Overture” and a surprise cameo by Williams, or as it is seen among many longtime Bowl season ticket holders, God. “Our dear friend John Williams – you probably know him – wrote a special for our celebration,” Dudamel. “John sang here for the first time 40 years ago in 1978. At the time, he wasn’t running his own music, but we convinced him to. Actually, it doesn’t make sense for me to run the show. John are you here? Please welcome, greatest… “The less than six-minute piece that followed Williams’ baton in support of the Millennium could almost have been written in place of the Centenary – the Millennium Falcon, ie.
Williams’ music also took center stage in the first half of the evening, as the composer’s perhaps understated style popped into jazz styles in a 13-minute snippet of his score “Catch Me If You Can”, with saxophonist Marsalis as lead instrumental. Throughout the piece are highlights and turns from L.A. lead percussionist Phil Matthew Howard on vibraphone and frequent Marsalis collaborator Eric Revis on double voice.
The break was preceded by two other traditional pieces, with Roberto Paul (lead dancer for American Ballet Theater from 2009-19) and Tyler Beck (lead dancer with the New York City Ballet, also since 2009) poetically performing eight minutes of the wonderful George Balanchine. Ballet choreography, in which the Philharmonic played excerpts from Stravinsky’s song “Apollo”. Another young artist was spotted in front of the Augustus Orchestra as the premiere ended with Spanish violinist Maria Duenas rousing the wine-soaked audience with Ravel’s song “Zegan”.
Act Two immediately took a contemporary turn with DJ Novena Carmel, currently of KCRW fame’s “Morning Becomes Eclectic”, joined by sister dance trio Let It Happen to beat James Brown and other beats. Let It happens at the end of the night, doing a much better job of choreographing during “Hollaback Girl” while the fireworks went off and Stephanie came out for a costume change, slipping into something more combative.
Before showing off for the last time in royal red, Stephanie took to the stage for her Seven-Day, hyper-ruffled pink dress that opened up at the front to reveal matching leggings—something that’s more like what she’d wear to the Met than anything else. Lying on her OC roots. Speaking of which, Stephanie took some congratulations for providing some likes for Gwen-a-Like in the crowd. “I can see people wearing my clothes (from) the Met Ball, which is unbelievable. I know that took a long time to make this dress. You guys look great.”
Several past opening nights at the Bowl have performed rock bands in front of the Phil, or Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, such as Steely Dan, Moody Blues and Journey; Other soloists who joined the orchestra on First Night of Splendor include John Legend and Diana Ross. It might have seemed a good bet that Stephanie would bring her band, and perhaps even her dancers; It’s clear they are in practice, as Stephanie just starred at the Crypto-dot-com Arena in January as part of the Super Bowl, where she once again established herself as one of the best women of the show in modern pop music. But for Friday’s extravaganza, aside from three backup vocalists, she made her musicians stay home and relied solely on Phil’s backing, arranged by Derek Hodge. This inevitably raised the question of the relevance of her popular songs pure synchronization.
Since her song (or no doubt) was the number one song, “Don’t Speak” was the most obvious choice for an evening of symphony therapy, “An Evening When the Pops,” so there wasn’t much surprise to hear that as the opening number. “The Sweet Escape” wasn’t an obvious candidate for Dudamel-ization, nor did it necessarily present itself as something that was in any way improved without a band. With “Spiderwebs,” the adaptation made sense somewhat: It’s not a complete jump, after all, from trumpets on a record produced when No Doubt was coming out of ska stage to 76 (or so) L.A. Phil’s trombone for a show. This was followed by two more poems local to the chord – “Used to Love You”, followed by new pair Blake Shelton coming out to repeat his recorded duet part in “Nobody But You”.
Perhaps it was with Just a Girl, perhaps surprisingly, that form met function and one of her truly iconic songs took her own life without a rock band leading it — her well-known quirky voice sounded like something out of Danny Elfman’s score in the hands of the Philharmonic. Stephanie called it a song she “written in Anaheim at Patty and Denise’s house”—they’d be her parents—”and I wrote this song so naively. I didn’t even know I could write a song, and I just wrote it because it’s from my heart. And then all these years later, I feel that This song is actually more relevant now than it’s ever been. You tell me.” At a detour, Stephanie, walking on the platform around the pool section, urged the men in the crowd to sing the choir while the women were to remain silent. Oh man, they felt like a woman.
There was some comedy, intentional and unintentional, when Stephanie talked about how bad she was with names — all names, I swear — and said Shelton trained her on how to remember Dudamel’s name by having her sing to the tune of “Annie” “Tomorrow” as a respiratory . She sang, “Gus Tavo, Gus Tavo, I love you Gus Tavo, you’re always a douche. failureShe quickly added as she corrected herself. “Yes! It worked!” Well, enthusiasm is what matters. It did not seem that the maestro was thinking of the confusion; At least, he seemed to laugh sweetly as the singer rocked him with disrespectful sides like, “What do we have to do next?…let’s do another one!” Let’s do it!”
And there was so much of that money left to spend on the Banana Finale, which had the Saints from opposing schools marching down the aisles and on stage, playing in unison with multiple college leaders, but offering a study in contrast to the very different dance styles of the two colleges’ fans. (For the record: USC was more traditional, and UCLA went for something a bit more saucy music video.)
Also joining the summit were members of the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra (YOLA), students who received free music education as a result of the generosity of the Philharmonic organizations or their sponsors. As a perk, the opening night of the Bowl will help fund some of the Viola comeback girls to make their dreams come true, as they could one day play Stravinsky and Stephanie in one night.